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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.
They’ve run the most profitable companies in history and, to put it bluntly, they are destroying the planet. In the past, given an American obsession with terrorists, I’ve called them “terrarists.” I’m referring, of course, to the CEOs of the Big Energy companies, who in these years have strained to find new ways to exploit every imaginable reservoir of fossil fuels on the planet and put them into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide emissions. One thing is certain: just as the top executives running tobacco companies, the lead industry, and asbestos outfits once did, they know what their drive for mega-profits means for the rest of us — check out the fire season in western North America this year — and our children and grandchildren. If you think the world is experiencing major refugee flows right now, just wait until the droughts grow more extreme and the flooding of coastal areas increases.
As I wrote back in 2013:
“With all three industries, the negative results conveniently arrived years, sometimes decades, after exposure and so were hard to connect to it. Each of these industries knew that the relationship existed. Each used that time-disconnect as protection. One difference: if you were a tobacco, lead, or asbestos exec, you might be able to ensure that your children and grandchildren weren’t exposed to your product. In the long run, that’s not a choice when it comes to fossil fuels and CO2, as we all live on the same planet (though it’s also true that the well-off in the temperate zones are unlikely to be the first to suffer).”
Remarkably enough, as Richard Krushnic and Jonathan King make clear today, the profits pursued by a second set of CEOs are similarly linked in the most intimate ways to the potential destruction of the planet (at least as a habitable environment for humanity and many other species) and the potential deaths of tens of millions of people. These are the executives who run the companies that develop, maintain, and modernize our nuclear arsenal and, as with the energy companies, use their lobbyists and their cash to push constantly in Washington for more of the same. Someday, looking back, historians (if they still exist) will undoubtedly consider the activities of both groups as examples of the ultimate in criminality. Tom
Privatizing the Apocalypse
How Nuclear Weapons Companies Commandeer Your Tax Dollars
By Richard Krushnic and Jonathan Alan King
Imagine for a moment a genuine absurdity: somewhere in the United States, the highly profitable operations of a set of corporations were based on the possibility that sooner or later your neighborhood would be destroyed and you and all your neighbors annihilated. And not just you and your neighbors, but others and their neighbors across the planet. What would we think of such companies, of such a project, of the mega-profits made off it?
In fact, such companies do exist. They service the American nuclear weapons industry and the Pentagon’s vast arsenal of potentially world-destroying weaponry. They make massive profits doing so, live comfortable lives in our neighborhoods, and play an active role in Washington politics. Most Americans know little or nothing about their activities and the media seldom bother to report on them or their profits, even though the work they do is in the service of an apocalyptic future almost beyond imagining.
Add to the strangeness of all that another improbability. Nuclear weapons have been in the headlines for years now and yet all attention in this period has been focused like a spotlight on a country that does not possess a single nuclear weapon and, as far as the American intelligence community can tell, has shown no signs of actually trying to build one. We’re speaking, of course, of Iran. Almost never in the news, on the other hand, are the perfectly real arsenals that could actually wreak havoc on the planet, especially our own vast arsenal and that of our former superpower enemy, Russia.
In the recent debate over whether President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran will prevent that country from ever developing such weaponry, you could search high and low for any real discussion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, even though the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists estimates that it contains about 4,700 active warheads. That includes a range of bombs and land-based and submarine-based missiles. If, for instance, a single Ohio Class nuclear submarine — and the Navy has 14 of them equipped with nuclear missiles — were to launch its 24 Trident missiles, each with 12 independently targetable megaton warheads, the major cities of any targeted country in the world could be obliterated and millions of people would die.
Indeed, the detonations and ensuing fires would send up so much smoke and particulates into the atmosphere that the result would be a nuclear winter, leading to worldwide famine and the possible deaths of hundreds of millions, including Americans (no matter where the missiles went off). Yet, as if in a classic Dr. Seuss book, one would have to add: that is not all, oh, no, that is not all. At the moment, the Obama administration is planning for the spending of up to a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to modernize and upgrade America’s nuclear forces.
Given that the current U.S. arsenal represents extraordinary overkill capacity — it could destroy many Earth-sized planets — none of those extra taxpayer dollars will gain Americans the slightest additional “deterrence” or safety. For the nation’s security, it hardly matters whether, in the decades to come, the targeting accuracy of missiles whose warheads would completely destroy every living creature within a multi-mile radius was reduced from 500 meters to 300 meters. If such “modernization” has no obvious military significance, why the push for further spending on nuclear weapons?
One significant factor in the American nuclear sweepstakes goes regularly unmentioned in this country: the corporations that make up the nuclear weapons industry. Yet the pressures they are capable of exerting in favor of ever more nuclear spending are radically underestimated in what passes for “debate” on the subject.
Privatizing Nuclear Weapons Development
Start with this simple fact: the production, maintenance, and modernization of nuclear weapons are sources of super profits for what is, in essence, a cartel. They, of course, encounter no competition for contracts from offshore competitors, given that it’s the U.S. nuclear arsenal we’re talking about, and the government contracts offered are screened from critical auditing under the guise of national security. Furthermore, the business model employed is “cost-plus,” which means that no matter how high cost overruns may be compared to original bids, contractors receive a guaranteed profit percentage above their costs. High profits are effectively guaranteed, no matter how inefficient or over-budget the project may become. In other words, there is no possibility of contractors losing money on their work, no matter how inefficient they may be (a far cry from a corporate free-market model of production).
Those well-protected profits and the firms raking them in have become a major factor in the promotion of nuclear weapons development, undermining any efforts at nuclear disarmament of almost any sort. Part of this process should be familiar indeed, since it’s an extension of a classic Pentagon formula that Columbia University industrial economist Seymour Melman once described so strikingly in his books and articles, a formula that infamously produced $436 hammers and $6,322 coffee makers.
Given the process and the profits, the weapons contractors have a vested interest in ensuring that the American public has a heightened sense of danger and insecurity (even as they themselves have become a leading source of such danger and insecurity). Recently, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) produced a striking report,”Don’t Bank on the Bomb,” documenting the major corporate contractors and their investors who will reap those mega-profits from the coming nuclear weapons upgrades.
Given the penumbra of national security that envelops the country’s nuclear weapons programs, authentic audits of the contracts of these companies are not available to the public. However, at least the major corporations profiting from nuclear weapons contracts can now be identified. In the area of nuclear delivery systems — bombers, missiles, and submarines — these include a series of familiar corporate names: Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, GenCorp Aerojet, Huntington Ingalls, and Lockheed Martin. In other areas like nuclear design and production, the names at the top of the list will be less well known: Babcock & Wilcox, Bechtel, Honeywell International, and URS Corporation. When it comes to nuclear weapons testing and maintenance, contractors include Aecom, Flour, Jacobs Engineering, and SAIC; missile targeting and guidance firms include Alliant Techsystems and Rockwell Collins.
To give a small sampling of the contracts: In 2014, Babcock & Wilcox was awarded $76.8 million for work on upgrading the Ohio class submarines. In January 2013, General Dynamics Electric Boat Division was awarded a $4.6 billion contract to design and develop a next-generation strategic deterrent submarine. More of what is known of such corporate weapons contracts can be found in the ICAN Report, which also identified banks and other financial institutions investing in the nuclear weapons corporations.
Many Americans are unaware that much of the responsibility for nuclear weapons development, production, and maintenance lies not with the Pentagon but the Department of Energy (DOE), which spends more on nuclear weapons than it does on developing sustainable energy sources. Key to the DOE’s nuclear project are the federal laboratories where nuclear weapons are designed, built, and tested. They include Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in Livermore, California. These, in turn, reflect a continuing trend in national security affairs, so-called GOCO sites (“government owned, contractor operated”). At the labs, this system represents a corporatization of the policies of nuclear deterrence and other nuclear weapons strategies. Through contracts with URS, Babcock & Wilcox, the University of California, and Bechtel, the nuclear weapons labs are to a significant extent privatized. The LANL contract alone is on the order of $14 billion. Similarly, the Savannah River Nuclear Facility, in Aiken, South Carolina, where nuclear warheads are manufactured, is jointly run by Flour, Honeywell International, and Huntington Ingalls Industries. Their DOE contract for operating it through 2016 totals about $8 billion dollars. In other words, in these years that have seen the rise of the warrior corporation and a significant privatization of the U.S. military and the intelligence community, a similar process has been underway in the world of nuclear weaponry.
In addition to the prime nuclear weapons contractors, there are hundreds of subcontractors, some of which depend upon those subcontracts for the bulk of their business. Any one of them may have from 100 to several hundred employees working on its particular component or system and, with clout in local communities, they help push the nuclear modernization program via their congressional representatives.
One of the reasons nuclear weapons profitability is extremely high is that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the Department of Energy, responsible for the development and operations of the DOE’s nuclear weapons facilities, does not monitor subcontractors, which makes it difficult to monitor prime contractors as well. For example, when the Project on Government Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information on Babock & Wilcox, the subcontractor for security at the Y-12 nuclear complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the NNSA responded that it had no information on the subcontractor. Babcock & Wilcox was then in charge of building a uranium processing facility at Y-12. It, in turn, subcontracted design work to four other companies and then failed to consolidate or supervise them. This led to an unusable design, which was only scrapped after the subcontractors had received $600 million for work that was useless. This Oak Ridge case, in turn, triggered a Government Accountability Office report to Congress last May indicating that such problems were endemic to the DOE’s nuclear weapons facilities.
The Nuclear Lobbyists
Federal tax dollars expended on nuclear weapons maintenance and development are a significant component of the federal budget. Although difficult to pin down precisely, the sums run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. In 2005, the Government Accountability Office reported that even the Pentagon had no firm numbers when it came to how much the nuclear mission costs, nor is there a standalone nuclear weapons budget of any sort, so overall costs must be estimated. Analyzing the budgets of the Pentagon and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, as well as information gleaned from Congressional testimony, the Center for Nonproliferation Studies suggests that, from 2010-2018, the United States will spend at least $179 billion to maintain the current nuclear triad of missiles, bombers, and submarines, with their associated nuclear weaponry, while beginning the process of developing their next-generation replacements. The Congressional Budget Office projects the cost of nuclear forces for 2015-2024 at $348 billion, or $35 billion annually, of which the Pentagon will spend $227 billion and the Department of Energy $121 billion.
In fact, the price for maintaining and developing the nuclear arsenal is actually far greater than either of those estimates. While those numbers include most of the direct costs of nuclear weapons and strategic launching systems like missiles and submarines, as well as the majority of the costs for the military personnel responsible for maintaining, operating, and executing the missions, they don’t include many other expenses, including the decommissioning process and nuclear-waste disposal issues involved in “retiring” weapons. Nor do they include the pensions and health-care costs that will go with retiring their human operators.
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In 2012, a report from a high-level committee chaired by former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright concluded that “no sensible argument has been put forward for using nuclear weapons to solve any of the major 21st century problems we face [including] threats posed by rogue states, failed states, proliferation, regional conflicts, terrorism, cyber warfare, organized crime, drug trafficking, conflict-driven mass migration of refugees, epidemics, or climate change. In fact, nuclear weapons have on balance arguably become more a part of the problem than any solution.”
Not surprisingly, for the roster of corporations involved in the U.S. nuclear programs, this matters little. They, in fact, maintain elaborate lobbying operations in support of their continuing nuclear weapons contracts. In a 2012 study for the Center for International Policy, “Bombs vs. Budgets: Inside the Nuclear Weapons Lobby,” William Hartung and Christine Anderson reported that, for the elections of that year, the top 14 contractors gave nearly $3 million directly to Congressional legislators. Not surprisingly, half that sum went to members of the four key committees or subcommittees that oversee spending for nuclear arms.
In 2015, the defense industry mobilized a small army of at least 718 lobbyists and doled out more than $67 million dollars pressuring Congress for increased weapons spending generally. Among the largest contributors were corporations with significant nuclear weapons contracts, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics. Such pro-nuclear lobbying is augmented by contributions and pressure from missile and aircraft companies that are primarily non-nuclear. Some of the systems they produce, however, are potentially dual-use (conventional and nuclear), which means that a robust nuclear weapons program increases their potential market.
The continuing pressure of Congressional Republicans for cuts in domestic social programs are a crucial mechanism that ensures federal tax dollars will be available for lucrative military contracts. In terms of quality of life (and death), this means that underestimating the influence of the nuclear weapons industry is singularly dangerous. For the $35 billion or more the U.S. taxpayer will put into such weaponry annually to support the narrow interests of a modest number of companies, the payback is fear of an apocalyptic future. After all, unlike almost all other corporate lobbies, the nuclear weapons lobby (and so your tax dollars) put life on Earth at risk of rapid extinction, either following the direct destruction of a nuclear holocaust or a radical reduction in sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface that would come from the sort of nuclear winter that would follow almost any nuclear exchange. At the moment, the corporate-nuclear complex is hidden in our midst, its budgets and funds shielded from public scrutiny, its project hardly noticed. It’s a formula for disaster.
Jonathan Alan King is professor of molecular biology at MIT and chair of the Nuclear Abolition Committee of Massachusetts Peace Action. Richard Krushnic is a former real estate loan asset manager and housing and business contract analyst at Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development. He is currently involved in community development in Latin America.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
Copyright 2015 Richard Krushnic and Jonathan Alan King
Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute’s Tomdispatch.com (“a regular antidote to the mainstream media”), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch Interviews with American Iconoclasts and Dissenters (Nation Books), the first collection of Tomdispatch interviews.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Tomgram: Krushnic and King, The Corporate Nuclear Complex Imagine for a moment a genuine absurdity: somewhere in the United States, the highly profitable operations of a set of corporations were based on the possibility that sooner or later your neighborhood would be destroyed and you and all your neighbors annihilated. And not just you and your neighbors, but others and their neighbors across the planet.
Monday, September 21, 2015 (2 comments)
Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, Flying the Unfriendly Skies of America It was August 2002. My partner Jan Adams and I were just beginning our annual pilgrimage to Massachusetts to visit my father and stepmother. At the check-in line at San Francisco International Airport, we handed over our driver’s licenses and waited for the airline ticket agent to find our flight and reservation. Suddenly, she got a funny look on her face. “There’s something wrong with the computer,” she said.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Tomgram: John Feffer, The Star Trek Fallacy The “prime directive,” designed to govern the conduct of Kirk and his crew on their episodic journey, required non-interference in the workings of alien civilizations. The Vietnam War, which raged through the years of its initial run, was then demonstrating to more and more Americans the folly of trying to re-engineer a society distant both geographically and culturally.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Alfred McCoy, Maintaining American Supremacy in the Twenty-First Century From TomDispatch this morning: A sweeping, provocative, and original look at whether the U.S. can maintain itself as the planet’s “sole superpower” in this century.
Monday, September 14, 2015
Tomgram: David Vine, Our Base Nation Early in this century, former CIA consultant and scholar Chalmers Johnson broke the silence around America’s “empire of bases.” And yet, in an era in which such bases, still being built, have played a crucial role in our various wars, conflicts, bombing and drone assassination campaigns, and other interventions in the Greater Middle East and elsewhere, they remain a barely acknowledged aspect of American life.
Thursday, September 10, 2015 (1 comments)
Tomgram: Nick Turse, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure Since 9/11, in fact, the continent has increasingly been viewed by the Pentagon as a place of problems to be remedied by military means. And year after year, as terror groups have multiplied, proxies have foundered, and allies have disappointed, the U.S. has doubled down again and again, with America’s most elite troops — U.S. Special Operations forces — leading the way.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015 (2 comments)
Exceptional Pain Dispensed by the Indispensable Nation Fourteen years of wars, interventions, assassinations, torture, kidnappings, black sites, the growth of the American national security state to monumental proportions, and the spread of Islamic extremism across much of the Greater Middle East and Africa. Fourteen years of astronomical expense, bombing campaigns galore, and a military-first foreign policy of repeated defeats, disappointments, and disasters.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Tomgram: Laura Gottesdiener, The King Is Dead! Laura Gottesdiener, who has been traveling fossil-fuel ravaged America from the fracking fields of the West to the coal industry’s mountain-top removal in West Virginia, offers a powerful look at what’s left behind when Big Energy is done.
Monday, August 24, 2015
Tomgram: David Bromwich, The Neoconservative Empire Returns Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu, and a bevy of congressional Republicans as well as Republican presidential candidates, go after President Obama and play what he calls “the long game on Iran.” They are, that is, not just looking toward shooting down the agreement now, but making sure that the next president will feel tremendous pressure to do so and to take on Iran militarily in 2017.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Rogue States and Nuclear Dangers Noam Chomsky’s major essay on the Iranian nuclear deal and the drumbeat of opposition to it. He makes sense of and offers a striking sense of perspective on the various over-the-top charges offered by those out to sink the deal, including that Iran is the “gravest threat” to world peace, the “greatest supporter” of terrorism on the planet, and “fueling instability” across the Greater Middle East.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015 (1 comments)
Tomgram: William Astore, Time to Hold Military Boots to the Fire Air Force Academy instructor William Astore. He considers just what America’s future commanders are being taught in the country’s three elite military academies and wonders what a crew that has taken no responsibility for years of disaster in conflict after conflict has to offer anyone and why they are generally held in such high regard in this country.
Monday, August 17, 2015 (1 comments)
Tomgram: William deBuys, Entering the Mega-Drought Era in AmericaTomDispatch regular William deBuys offers an eye-opening look at bone-dry, blazing California and ways in which that state is leading us all into a grim future. Today’s droughts, bad as they are, will be put in the shade by the predicted mega-droughts of tomorrow, and the problem of water in the American West is only going to deepen — or do I mean grow shallower?
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Tomgram: Michael Klare, Big Oil in Retreat In his latest fascinating dispatch, Klare takes us through the ins and outs of an oil industry that suddenly looks to be on the ropes. “Most of us are used to following the ups and downs of the Dow Jones Industrial Average as a shorthand gauge for the state of the world economy. However, following the ups and downs of the price of Brent crude may, in the end, tell us far more about world affairs on our endangered planet.”
Tuesday, August 11, 2015 (2 comments)
Tomgram: Engelhardt, What It Means When You Kill People On the Other Side of the Planet and No One Notices This is the story of how the antiwar movement of one era brought what I call “the spectacle of slaughter” into American neighborhoods and backyards, and how, in the twenty-first century, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the killing of children, the knocking off of wedding parties has barely caused a ripple in American consciousness. Think of this as memoir with a purpose.
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Tomgram: Susan Southard, Under the Mushroom Cloud — Nagasaki after Nuclear WarSouthard follows five teenagers, who survived the second use of a nuclear weapon, from the moment a B-29 appeared over the city to the first devastating moments after the blast. It’s an unforgettable account of one city’s destruction and a reminder of the dangers our world, filled with nuclear weapons so much more powerful than the one that obliterated Nagasaki, still faces.
Tuesday, August 4, 2015 (5 comments)
Tomgram: Christian Appy, America’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 Years Later Historian Appy tells a remarkable and vivid tale of how the leaders of the only country to use atomic weapons against human beings crafted a narrative of, in essence, atomic “mercy” killings of a life-saving nature and how that narrative remained engraved in our collective consciousness (as in the wildly successfully bestseller and movie Unbroken) from August 1945 to the present moment.
Monday, August 3, 2015
Karen J. Greenberg, The Mass Killer and the National Security StateTomDispatch regular Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, explains just what it means to the future funding of the national security state amid a panic over ISIS “lone wolves” and mass shootings — and why it’s likely to result in more taxpayer money going into ever more intrusive efforts to monitor Americans instead of into caring for those in our society who are young and disturbed.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Subhankar Banerjee, Fire at World’s End Subhankar Banerjee lives on the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington and has recently found himself on the front lines of the present wildfire season in a drought-gripped West. In his latest piece, he takes us into perhaps the single place least likely to be ablaze in America and oh yes, if you haven’t already guessed, it’s on fire.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, Washington and Tehran Come in From the ColdPeter Van Buren says to stop fretting about the details. What’s in the actual accord matters little; what does matter is that a kind of Cold War in the Middle East has just potentially ended, the balance of power in the region may have shifted, and the world could be a very different place — and none of that is in the nuclear document itself.
Monday, July 27, 2015
Eduardo Galeano, The Previous Sole Superpower The 13 passages take you, in Galeano-esque fashion, from the Opium Wars to Darwin’s finches. It’s great stuff from a man to whom history regularly whispered its secrets and it’s excerpted from his late-in-life masterpiece, his history of humanity in 366 episodes, Mirrors.
Thursday, July 23, 2015 (4 comments)
Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, The Pivot to Eurasia n the rest of this remarkable piece, Escobar explores the latest news when it comes to China’s and Russia’s attempts to stitch together a new set of forces on the Eurasia continent, a plan in which Iran will be a key crossroads and node. He offers an eye-opening new way of looking at where our planet is headed and why Washington won’t be the country leading it there. Make sure to give this piece your full attention!
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Tomgram: Engelhardt, A Message in a Bottle from My Mother [This article] explores the last instance of American war mobilization and implicitly why the U.S. has failed to win another significant war without it — and does so in the context of my memories, my life, and my mother (copiously illustrated with photos and memorabilia of mine from her life). I hope you find this one both heartfelt and out of the ordinary. Tom
Thursday, July 16, 2015 (1 comments)
Tomgram: Max Blumenthal, The Next Gaza War A gripping anatomy of the nightmarish ongoing conflict in Gaza, and why Israelis are so bent on a fourth round of hostilities in Gaza.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015 (1 comments)
Tomgram: Tim Weiner, The Nixon Legacy It turns out we never got rid of Richard Nixon. Weiner’s book should convince anyone that he created the blueprint for the present national security state. What was, for instance, one president’s mania for bugging and recording his world in the twentieth century has become, in the twenty-first century, the NSA’s mania for bugging and recording the whole planet.
Monday, July 13, 2015 (1 comments)
Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, No Lone Rangers in Drone Warfare In reality, there’s nothing ‘lone’ about drone warfare. Think of the structure for carrying out Washington’s drone killing program as a multidimensional pyramid populated with hundreds of personnel and so complex that just about no one involved really grasps the full picture.
Thursday, July 9, 2015
Tomgram: Ellen Cantarow, Paradise Lost — or Found? In the Finger Lakes, an area of New York State you may never have heard of, Cantarow offers a glimpse of the small-scale, local ways in which Americans are standing up to Big Energy corporations. She describes how they are doing their inventive best to seize the day and ensure that our children and grandchildren remain on a planet capable of supporting them. This is inspiring stuff. Don’t miss it! Tom
Tuesday, July 7, 2015 (2 comments)
Tomgram: Greg Grandin, How Endless War Helps Old Dixie Stay New In this remarkable anatomy of how the Confederate flag went to war — after the Civil War — Grandin explores its uses from the late 19th century through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and into the wars of our present century.
Saturday, July 4, 2015
Tomgram: Engelhardt, What Happened to War? In my latest post, I start with the strange inability of Washington to translate America’s staggering military power into effective and successful policy. Consider this an American decline piece with a twist. The question I ask is: What if the U.S. is indeed declining, but unlike in the past 500 years of the rise and fall of empires, no rivals are rising to challenge it?
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Michael Klare, The Coming of Cold War 2.0 In a world that, from Washington’s point of view, is only getting darker, Nixon-era enemies are also returning to the fray, and so Washington’s new, twenty-first century “enemies list” is the focus of TomDispatch regular Michael Klare’s latest offering. As the 2016 election campaign ramps up, get ready to hear far more about the grave, even existential threats posed by two oldies but goodies: Russia and China.
Monday, June 29, 2015
William Astore, “Hi, I’m Uncle Sam and I’m a War-oholic” Endless war-making, whether on countries, terror groups, or social problems, has become an American trait. We seem to regularly launch wars of every sort and then never quite make our way out of them. Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and TomDispatch regular William Astore suggests that, were the U.S. an individual, we would immediately recognize what such behavior was — addiction — and act accordingly.
Thursday, June 25, 2015 (1 comments)
Peter Van Buren, What If There Is No Plan B for Iraq? In recent White House “debates” over a disastrously deteriorating situation in Iraq, President Obama’s top military officials were dragging their feet on the question of what more the U.S. should do. Clearly, they weren’t ready to swallow the idea of more U.S. casualties in a spreading conflict leading nowhere fast.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Tomgram: Nomi Prins, Jeb! The Money! Dynasty! Based on her book, All the Presidents’ Bankers, former Wall Street exec Nomi Prins is now producing a series of pieces for TomDispatch on presidential dynasties-in-the-making and their financial underpinnings.
Monday, June 22, 2015 (2 comments)
Armed Violence in the Homeland In the rest of the piece, I offer a kind of tabulation of the overwhelming annual carnage-by-weapon in America that, most of the time, is remarkably little attended to and that no national security state promotes as “the greatest threat” of our time. It’s a piece meant to put violence in our American world in some kind of perspective. I hope you’ll find it provocative!
Thursday, June 18, 2015 (1 comments)
Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, The Theology of American National Security Today, a brilliant piece by TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich on the repetitive madness that is Washington’s Iraq policy. A full-scale look at the consensus thinking (or national security “theology”) that rules the nation’s capital and how it has led us repeatedly down the rabbit hole in Iraq (and elsewhere). What the Obama Administration have blinded themselves to and where this leads in an Alice-in-Wonderland world
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Tomgram: Naomi Oreskes, Why Climate Deniers Are Their Own Worst Nightmares From prominent historian of science Naomi Oreskes (profiled in the New York Times science section this morning) and co-author of the already-classic book Merchants of Doubt, a truly important piece: a devastating dissection of climate denial, the deniers, and their attack on climate scientists.
Monday, June 15, 2015 (1 comments)
Tomgram: David Vine, “The Truth About Diego Garcia, And 50 Years of Fictions About a U.S. Military Base” While the grim saga of Diego Garcia frequently reads like fiction, it has proven all too real for the people involved. It’s the story of a U.S. military base built on a series of real-life fictions told by U.S. and British officials over more than half a century.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Tomgram: Jen Marlowe, “They Demolish and We Rebuild” Nasser Nawaj’ah held Laith’s hand as, beside me, they walked down the dirt and pebble path of Old Susya. Nasser is 33 years old, his son six. Nasser’s jaw was set and every few moments he glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone was approaching. Until Laith piped up with his question, the only sounds were our footsteps and the wind, against which Nasser was wearing a wool hat and a pleated brown jacket.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015 (1 comments)
Tomgram: Gottesdiener and Garcia, How to Dismantle This CountrySomething is rotten in the state of Michigan. One city neglected to inform its residents that its water supply was laced with cancerous chemicals. Another dissolved its public school district and replaced it with a charter school system, only to witness the for-profit management company it hired flee the scene after determining it couldn’t turn a profit.
Monday, June 8, 2015 (4 comments)
Tomgram: Alfred McCoy. Washington’s Great Game and Why It’s Failing For even the greatest of empires, geography is often destiny. You wouldn’t know it in Washington, though. America’s political, national security, and foreign policy elites continue to ignore the basics of geopolitics that have shaped the fate of world empires for the past 500 years.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
Tomgram: Nick Turse, My Very Own Veteran’s Day PIBOR, South Sudan — “I’ve never been a soldier,” I say to the wide-eyed, lanky-limbed veteran sitting across from me. “Tell me about military life. What’s it like?” He looks up as if the answer can be found in the blazing blue sky above, shoots me a sheepish grin, and then fixes his gaze on his feet. I let the silence wash over us and wait. He looks embarrassed. Perhaps it’s for me.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Tomgram: Engelhardt, Going for Broke in Ponzi Scheme America It couldn’t be a sunnier, more beautiful day to exit your lives — or enter them — depending on how you care to look at it. After all, here you are four years later in your graduation togs with your parents looking on, waiting to celebrate. The question is: Celebrate what exactly?
Monday, June 1, 2015
Barbara Myers: The Unknown Whistleblower The witness reported men being hung by the feet or the thumbs, waterboarded, given electric shocks to the genitals, and suffering from extended solitary confinement in what he said were indescribably inhumane conditions. It’s the sort of description that might have come right out of the executive summary of the Senate torture report released last December.
Thursday, May 28, 2015 (2 comments)
Michael Klare: Superpower in Distress Take a look around the world and it’s hard not to conclude that the United States is a superpower in decline. Whether in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East, aspiring powers are flexing their muscles, ignoring Washington’s dictates, or actively combating them.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
John Feffer: Why the World is Becoming Un-Sweden Imagine an alternative universe in which the two major Cold War superpowers evolved into the United Soviet Socialist States. The conjoined entity, linked perhaps by a new Bering Straits land bridge, combines the optimal features of capitalism and collectivism. From Siberia to Sioux City, we’d all be living in one giant Sweden.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Dahr Jamail: The Navy’s Great Alaskan “War” I lived in Anchorage for 10 years and spent much of that time climbing in and on the spine of the state, the Alaska Range. Three times I stood atop the mountain the Athabaskans call Denali, “the great one.” During that decade, I mountaineered for more than half a year on that magnificent state’s highest peaks.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Engelhardt: Tomorrow’s News Today It’s commonplace to speak of “the fog of war,” of what can’t be known in the midst of battle, of the inability of both generals and foot soldiers to foresee developments once fighting is underway. And yet that fog is nothing compared to the murky nature of the future itself, which, you might say, is the fog of human life.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Nick Turse: One Boy, One Rifle, and One Morning in Malakal President Obama couldn’t have been more eloquent. Addressing the Clinton Global Initiative, for instance, he said: “When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery.”
Thursday, May 14, 2015
William Astore: America’s Mutant Military It’s 1990. I’m a young captain in the U.S. Air Force. I’ve just witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, something I never thought I’d see, short of a third world war. Right now I’m witnessing the slow death of the Soviet Union, without the accompanying nuclear Armageddon so many feared. Still, I’m slightly nervous as my military gears up for an unexpected new campaign, Operation Desert Shield/Storm…
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Ann Jones: Citizen’s Revolt in Afghanistan I went to Kabul, Afghanistan, in March to see old friends. By chance, I arrived the day after a woman had been beaten to death and burned by a mob of young men. The world would soon come to know her name: Farkhunda
Thursday, May 7, 2015
Nomi Prins: Hillary, Bill, and the Big Six Banks The past, especially the political past, doesn’t just provide clues to the present. In the realm of the presidency and Wall Street, it provides an ongoing pathway for political-financial relationships and policies that remain a threat to the American economy going forward.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 (1 comments)
Michael Gould-Wartofsky, The New Age of Counterinsurgency Policing Last week, as Baltimore braced for renewed protests over the death of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) prepared for battle. With state-of-the-art surveillance of local teenagers’ Twitter feeds, law enforcement had learned that a group of high school students was planning to march on the Mondawmin Mall.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Engelhardt: Counting Bodies, Then and Now In the twenty-first-century world of drone warfare, one question with two aspects reigns supreme: Who counts? In Washington, the answers are the same: We don’t count and they don’t count.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Sandy Tolan: The One-State Conundrum The SUV slows as it approaches a military kiosk at a break in a dull gray wall. Inside, Ramzi Aburedwan, a Palestinian musician, prepares his documents for the Israeli soldier standing guard. On the other side of this West Bank military checkpoint lies the young man’s destination, the ancient Palestinian town of Sebastia.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Andrew Cockburn: How Assassination Sold Drugs and Promoted Terrorism As the war on terror nears its 14th anniversary — a war we seem to be losing, given jihadist advances in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen — the U.S. sticks stolidly to its strategy of “high-value targeting,” our preferred euphemism for assassination. Secretary of State John Kerry has proudly cited the elimination of “fifty percent” of the Islamic State’s “top commanders” as a recent indication of progress.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Christian Appy: From the Fall of Saigon to Our Fallen Empire If our wars in the Greater Middle East ever end, it’s a pretty safe bet that they will end badly — and it won’t be the first time. The “fall of Saigon” in 1975 was the quintessential bitter end to a war. Oddly enough, however, we’ve since found ways to reimagine that denouement which miraculously transformed a failed and brutal war of American aggression into a tragic humanitarian rescue mission.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Engelhardt: The Future Foreseen (and Not) Dear Grandson, Consider my address book — and yes, the simple fact that I have one already tells you a good deal about me. All the names, street addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers that matter to me are still on paper, not in a computer or on an iPhone, and it’s not complicated to know what that means: I’m an old guy getting older.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Nick Turse: AFRICOM Behaving Badly Six people lay lifeless in the filthy brown water. It was 5:09 a.m. when their Toyota Land Cruiser plunged off a bridge in the West African country of Mali. For about two seconds, the SUV sailed through the air, pirouetting 180 degrees as it plunged 70 feet, crashing into the Niger River.
Monday, April 20, 2015
Laura Gottesdiener: Another Round of Detroit Refugees? Unlike so many industrial innovations, the revolving door was not developed in Detroit. It took its first spin in Philadelphia in 1888, the brainchild of Theophilus Van Kannel, the soon-to-be founder of the Van Kannel Revolving Door Company. Its purpose was twofold: to better insulate buildings from the cold and to allow greater numbers of people easier entry at any given time.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Michael Klare: Is the Age of Renewable Energy Already Upon Us? Don’t hold your breath, but future historians may look back on 2015 as the year that the renewable energy ascendancy began, the moment when the world started to move decisively away from its reliance on fossil fuels. Those fuels — oil, natural gas, and coal — will, of course, continue to dominate the energy landscape for years to come, adding billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon to the atmosphere.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Nick Turse: The U.S. Military’s Battlefield of Tomorrow For three days, wearing a kaleidoscope of camouflage patterns, they huddled together on a military base in Florida. They came from U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and U.S. Army Special Operations Command, from France and Norway, from Denmark, Germany, and Canada: 13 nations in all.
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